Want to sell your photographs??

A lot has been said the last day or two in comments to my posts, in reference to the sales of photographs.  I think, in this post, I will tell you how I have managed to pick a few bucks in sales.  To begin with, I feel I should mention that when I decided many years ago to study with the New York Institute of Photography, I had no intention of wanting to get a job in photography.  I didn’t want to work for a magazine or newspaper, and have to go on assignments.  I simply just wanted to be a good photographer.

It has worked pretty much the way I wanted.  I took what I learned, combined it with my natural eye for composition and managed to take good photographs.  Over the earlier years I mostly gave away my prints, for birthdays, anniversaries, etc.  Oh, lest I forget, I filled our walls, too.

Later on, about 15-20 years ago, a friend of mine who was an artist, a sculptor, suggested I enter an art show and sale that he was participating in.  With some arm pulling, he convinced me that would be a way to sell a few prints.  I had no display materiel, back-drops, etc.  I only had a card table.  The fee for the show was about 20.00 for a 10×10 ft space.

For merchandise, I had printed out twenty-one different 11×14 prints and had them mounted on foam-board and shrink-wrapped.  I done the mounting and shrink-wrapping myself, borrowing the material from my friend, and using a hair-dryer to seal them.  I was good to go, ready to present my work to the world. 🙂

The show was a week-end deal, from 10:00 until 6:00Pm on Saturday, and from noon until 5:00PM on Sunday.  I had my prints priced at 25.00 each.  I sold my first and only print at about 3:00 on Sunday afternoon.  At least, my first foray into the world of arts and crafts shows wasn’t a complete bust.  But to be honest, when I made that one sale, I was elated.  Holy Smokes!  Somebody liked my work well enough that they wanted to buy it.  What a great feeling!

I realized then that I really wasn’t prepared.  With only 21 prints to choose from there just wasn’t enough choice.  I had only one size, 11×14.  I decided the next time I would have more variety in pictures, and also in sizes.

The next time I was in better shape.  I got some backdrop made of lattice-work, hooked it together so it would stand up and hung a few prints.  I got a larger table with boxes where people could sort through the pictures.  Sales started to pick up.  But still not enough to really make enough money.

I decided if I was going to do this, I needed to get smart and do things to look a little more professional.  At first, I was having some prints framed at a professional frame shop.  That worked, except that because of the costs, I couldn’t sell them at a price where it was very cost effective.  So, I invested in a mat-cutter.  I learned to cut my own mats, and do my own framing.  I had a few outlets where I could buy frames at wholesale prices.  In place of shrink-wrapping, I discovered a company, Clearbags.com. that sold crystal clear bags or envelopes to slide my mounted prints into.  I also invested in some professional back-drops, whereas I could hang framed pictures in an attractive setting.

Show set-up

When things really got rolling, I was selling framed prints, mostly matted 11x14s.  They will fit perfectly into 16×20 frames.  Matted 8×10 prints will fit into 11×14 frames.  These are standard sizes.  This way you won’t be spending money on custom made frames.  Personally, I always bought my frames, standard off the shelf sizes, at Hobby Lobby, when they were on sale 1/2 off.  You can also buy pre-cut standard mats so you won’t have to do any mat-cutting if you don’t want.

I was also selling note-cards with envelopes, with of course my own pictures.  It pays to diversify, to have more choices for the customer.  They may not want to pay for large print, but they just might consider a few note cards, that cost you 35 cents and they pay you 2.95.

I own a Epson Stylus R1900 Photo printer.  It will print up to a 13×19 print, that will last 100 years.  For larger sizes, I use a very good on-line company.  Reliable Photo, whose prices you won’t believe.  I am talking really low prices for top quality, beautiful prints.  Avery, the company that makes paper, labels, etc. had free software so you can design your note cards, and by the way, business cards.

As you have probably realized by now, it takes considerable investment to really do it right.  But you can start out small, and probably do a better job than I did, then gradually add and grow.  Check out some arts and crafts shows near you, and see how some of those photographers and artists operate.

A few years ago, I was doing about 25 shows per year.  Averaging two shows per month.  We had a van and traveled around west Texas, usually picking out shows that were within 150 miles of us, so as not to travel too far.  I averaged anywhere from 700.00 to 2,000.00 in sales per weekend.

My car with sign

Some other tips.  Always carry business cards, and don’t be afraid to hand them to anyone.  You want to keep your name out there.  I even invested in magnetic signs for my car.  they cost me 30.00 each.  Now I am not going to say that someone saw my sign and called me about a picture.  Probably, not at all.  But my name is out there and people recognize me.

You might frame a few prints and ask your favorite bank, or restaurant, etc., if you can hang some framed prints there.  Offer them a percentage of a sale.  You can ask a larger price to cover that.  Personally, I have a large collection of my work hanging in the Crockett National Bank, here in San Angelo.  As I get new works, I frame it and swap it out, so my display changes every month or two.  I don’t have an account there, but the bank president had seen my work and liked it.  He initially asked me to display my work for a month, but I have been there now for over a year now.  By the way, when I sell something he doesn’t want any commission.  He benefits from the people to come in his bank, when I tell them my gallery is located there.

A web-site is good to have, too.  It is a good place to refer people to, so they can see your work ahead of time.  In reality, I have sold images over the internet but not enough to make a living at it.  On occasion, a magazine will contact me and that can be lucrative.  I have been published in Photography Forum Magazine,  Wild West Magazine,  Texas Farmers and Ranch Magazine,  and National Wildlife Magazine.  Plus I had a photo on the cover of another issue of National Wildlife Maazine.

Ross McSwain, who writes the “Out Yonder” column for the San Angelo Standard-Times, wrote a book about west Texas.  He asked me to do the cover for the book, plus illustrate several chapters.  It sold unter the title of “See No Evil, Speak No Evil”.  Now he is doing another book.  It will be called “The Best of Out Yonder”, and again he has contracted me to do the cover and other illustrations.  It will published in 2012.

For me, though, the shows were where I made the most money on a regular basis.  But now I now longer need to do them, and at my age, I now longer want to do them.

Now, just word of mouth and local sales work for me.  For example, on two occasions, I have had people buy literally a house full of pictures.  They had bought new homes, and wanted my work in each and every room.  My only advertising, is my cards, my sign on my car, and the fact that people know that for nature photography, I am the person to see.

I hope this article instills a little eagerness on your part to get out and let the public see and buy your images.  I did it, and so can you.

Now I want to wish all of my readers, my fellow bloggers, and everyone else, a very Merry Christmas to you and your families.

36 thoughts on “Want to sell your photographs??

  1. This is such an inspiring post, Bob! I wish I can do what you’ve accomplished, but I think I have a long way to go. My hope is that I can get better in time.

    Happy New Year to you and yours 🙂

  2. I have put this up on my Kitchens Garden Project Facebook page. We are trying to encourage gardening people to help other people to put in veg gardens. A lot of these people take photographs as well. So i though this might be interesting for them. Thank you Bob.. c

  3. Bob, thanks for sharing your valuable information. I’m a NYIP drop out or drop off. Difficult to motivate remotely when things were done on tape and through the mail. Social media and networking online makes everything different. I appreciate your words of wisdoms here.

    • I agree with you, the way things were done back done. I am sure that it would be great fun to study with NYIP here in this digital age. I appreciate your comments each and every time.

  4. Interesting story, Bob! As nice as it would be to make a few bucks from doing what I love, I think photography will continue to be just a dearly loved hobby for me! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas.

  5. Hi Bob – Just starting to catch up on missed posts while ‘out of action’! What a post to start off with – a real ‘cracker’ full of useful advice! Oh, and that reminds me – a belated Happy Christmas to you and yours! Will catch up on your posts in the next few days, Bob! Have missed reading them and your photographs!



    • If you’re talking about the place next to my car, that is a cabin down at Far Flung Adventures in Terlingua. That’s where we stay when visiting there. 🙂

      Merry Christmas to you and yours, too., Tobie. 🙂

  6. Bob I had no idea you had done the exact same art show routine I had done for 17 years. I actually began selling my work in Tacoma, WA after only a year of being a shutterbug, did a few shows, then worked as a photojournalist. Then did commercial work, portraits, weddings, etc. I went back to art shows when I moved to Maine in 1993 and did well enough to support myself and my son and buy a house. Then the Recession hit…. and now I have another Mid-Life career working for the National Park Service. I think I will be selling all my display stuff – which looks just like your stuff, even down to the slant-side print boxes – when I return to Maine in June to have a big yard sale and take only my best stuff South with me.

    Some other tips: Vistaprint is an online service for cards, magnetic signs, etc – very good service.

    Also Florida Frames has some really nice frames and I used the unfinished ones since I painted mine really funky to match my work. They are also very reliable.

    Here’s a link to those of you wanting to join a group discussing the latest in art show trends, geared to photographers. The guy who started it is a very knowledgeable and generous fellow who shares info freely.


    Merry Christmas!

    • What a co-incidence, Cindy. We enjoyed doing the shows. I say “we” because Ann was a big help, aiding me in setting up, hanging pictures, waiting on customers, etc. But a couple of years ago, I decided it was getting a bit too much, especially when we had to unload at a show when the temp was over 100 degrees. I’m 77 years old and Ann is 72. I sold all of my display equipment, my trailer, and traded the van for the one in the picture.

      I can’t say I really miss the shows, but sometimes I think I need to somehow have some kind of sale to get rid of a lot of framed images that I still have. I have my gallery at that bank, but the sales there, as one could expect, are slow.

      Thanks for that link for the show forums. I’ll check it out.

      Merry Christmas to you, too.

  7. Great information, Bob! Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences! I visited my daughter in NC last week and missed several of your posts. I will catch up soon. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and Ann!

    • Thank you very much, Karen. I hope you enjoy the rest of my post, too. It’s for people like you that I enjoy writing these things. Happy Holidays, to you and yours, too.:-)

  8. Good Morning..you really made me laugh about your beginning in doing shows..I used saran wrap and hair dryer and zip lock bags, but later graduated to the clear bags which I still have a few laying around. I bought the mat cutter and the whole 10 yards. My first booth was off the side of the van with an awning, brown peg boards and a card table. Those were the good old days, then we all upgraded, shows got pricey, tents were white, II worked full time and averaged 3 shows a month. I still did a couple of shows up until last year when the local gallery put an exclusive 50 mile radius on us. But the market is flat here in Colorado, and at my age too, it got to be a hassle. More fun to hang in the galleries and see what happens. God Bless you and Ann, and have a Merry Christmas…

    • Ha. You went to the same school I went to. The school of hard knocks. It finally got to be too big a hassle fo us, too. Three hours to set up, but could knock it down in one hour. But like you, I am just satisfied to use the gallery, and pick a few sales there. Gives me more time to get out and have the fun of creating. But, as you say, it is great to remember the good old days. You have a great Merry Christmas, too, Syl. 🙂

  9. Awesome info Mr. Bob….There are several doctor’s offices around Asheville that have agreed to hang a mounted photo of mine in.
    They benefit from not having to buy stuff to hang up, and I benefit by having a print mounted and hung (along with a business card in the corner)

    I’ve gotten some calls about people wanting to buy some prints and several calls from people wanting to know if I was interested in shooting a wedding.

    LOL, my day job keeps me busy enough and pays well enough that I don’t need to sell my photography, but if the price is right, alittle extra money never hurt anyone.

    From me and mine, to you and yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas as well.


    • I get calls all the time to do weddings, but I am not ready to tak a chance on ruining some young ladies “special day”. That’s too much like work. Nope, I stick to what I do best, just photograph nature.

      Happy Holidays, Raven. 🙂

  10. Bob…very cool article. Informative and to the point. Hell, now I want to guy a good camera and start taking photos! All four of us at the Toby Dome wish you and Ann a joyous Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    Love to you both,
    Toby, Heather, Issy and Bailey the Little Texas Tornado

    PS It just might snow here on Christmas night! w00t!

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